Mining Project: Enhancing Mine Workers' Abilities to Identify Hazards at Sand, Stone, and Gravel Mines

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Principal Investigator
Start Date 10/1/2014
End Date 9/30/2019

To characterize sand, stone, and gravel mine workers’ ability to recognize worksite hazards and to understand how this ability relates to perceived and measured risk as well as to other factors internal and external to the sand, stone, and gravel mine worker.

Topic Area

Research Summary

Mining is a major undertaking that involves a variety of components including heavy machinery, complex equipment, and diverse worker activities, all of which take place in a dynamic, challenging environment. To work safely, miners must be able to identify work place hazards, know and understand the risks associated with these hazards, and then make the decision to mediate the hazards. The year 2013 saw an increase in the number of fatalities at metal/nonmetal mines relative to the previous two years, and this number continued to be high in 2014.

To help to address these issues, this project was designed to achieve five research aims, as follows:

  1. Study the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) related to hazard recognition and risk perception, specifically whether there are differences in KSAs based on experience with sand, stone, and gravel (SSG) mining.
  2. Through work with subject matter experts (SMEs) and analyses of fatal and non-fatal MSHA data, identify hazards found at SSG mine sites. This aim was completed during fiscal year 2015. Panoramic pictures were taken at a surface limestone mine. These panoramic pictures include the identified worksite hazards.
  3. Collect quantitative data in order to measure how SSG mine workers visually search the worksite for hazards and to also measure the accuracy and speed with which worksite hazards that vary in level of perceived and objectively measured risk are identified. This aim was completed during fiscal year 2016. Additional qualitative data collection methods were included to probe identified and non-identified hazards. These data are necessary to further understand the hazard recognition process.
  4. Create a hazard recognition intervention to address cognitive concerns identified through the above research. This aim was completed during fiscal year 2018 with the creation of EXAMiner, a virtual workplace examination tool that addresses cognitive concerns related to hazard recognition.
  5. Field test the hazard recognition intervention with SSG mining operation employees to determine the effectiveness of the related materials. This aim was completed during fiscal year 2019 when EXAMiner was evaluated through field testing with mining stakeholders.

This project was designed to improve the understanding of the cognitive processes—such as visual search, risk perception, and risk tolerance—involved in successful hazard recognition for SSG mine workers. Initial testing took place in NIOSH laboratories. Experienced and novice SSG mine workers, SSG mine safety professionals, and mining students participated in the study. During data collection, participants were shown panoramic pictures of work locations that include a variety of hazards, then asked to identify the hazards. All participants were asked to wear eye tracking glasses to record where they were looking while searching the pictures for hazards. They were also asked to hold a button to press to indicate when a hazard was found. Following this task, participants performed a risk assessment for each of the hazards included in the pictures.

Results from this initial testing were used to guide the development of two interventions that can be used to improve SSG mine workers’ KSAs related to hazard recognition and risk assessment. The Hazard Recognition Challenge and EXAMiner, as described below.

Hazard Recognition Challenge

This Web-based application gives users the opportunity to perform a virtual workplace examination at four locations at a surface stone operation. After taking the Challenge, the user is provided feedback on performance as well as information about the hazards at each of the locations. Further information about the Hazard Recognition Challenge is published in the form of a Technology News, Hazard Recognition Challenge Invites Mineworkers to Test Their Knowledge of Workplace Hazards


This software download from the NIOSH Mining website serves both trainers and trainees. For trainers, EXAMiner gives them the opportunity to create their own training materials, either by using NIOSH scenes and scenarios or by importing their own panoramic pictures to create site-specific scenes and scenarios. For trainees, EXAMiner gives them the ability to perform a virtual workplace examination where they are asked to search for and find workplace hazards.

Finally, EXAMiner also gives trainers the opportunity to debrief a training session with trainees. The training session debrief provides trainees with feedback on performance, information to reinforce the risk associated with hazards, and strategies trainees can use to mitigate hazards. Field testing at SSG mine sites was completed to validate the quality of EXAMiner as an intervention. The impact of this intervention was evident through both performance on the workplace examination search task and the debrief discussion that took place after. Results of the evaluation provide evidence that EXAMiner can be used to reinforce SSG mineworkers’ knowledge of mine site hazards and the risk associated with these hazards.

Related Resources

Effectively Recognizing Hazards (trade journal article)

Defining Hazard from the Mineworker's Perspective  (peer-reviewed journal article)

How Do Mineworkers Search For and Find Worksite Hazards: Risk Assessment (trade journal article)

Improve Your Hazard Recognition Skills (trade journal article)

Recognizing Mine Site Hazards: Identifying Differences in Hazard Recognition Ability for Experienced and New Mineworkers  (book chapter)

Safety and Health Toolbox Talks  (software)

Related Regulation

Examination of Working Places. 30 CFR 56 18002 (2017)

Page last reviewed: March 10, 2020
Page last updated: March 10, 2020